Recently in Wrestling Category

Suriano Making an Immediate Impact

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State wrestling's true freshman Nick Suriano. The 125-pound wrestler, who went 159-0 in high school, is currently 7-0 for the Nittany Lions and is already making an impact in the lineup. 

Suriano takes the reins at 125 after former Nittany Lion Nico Megaludis, who won a national championship in his senior season prior to graduation. Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson sees the similarities in the dedicated approach and work ethic between the two. 

"[Suriano and Megaludis] are really similar in that way," Sanderson said. "Nick is a guy you have to kind of drag him out of the gym every day." "But he's coachable, he understands that and that's half the battle."

The Paramus, New Jersey native hasn't seen any struggles in his transition from high school to DI athletics. Suriano has solidified himself as a consistent presence in Penn State's lineup, rising as one of the top contenders in the country.

"He has a great feel for the sport so he makes adjustments quickly," Sanderson said. "Even in his match on Sunday he was close to scoring early in the match and then in the second period he hit a similar position but finished it differently, so he just has the ability to adjust in his matches and he figures things out. That's pretty rare, that doesn't happen a lot."

Already identified as unique, Suriano also heads into Sunday's outing against Binghamton without surrendering a single takedown to an opponent with a perfect 7-0 record on the year. 

"He has that gift and you add that gift with the tenacity and the mental toughness and the fortitude, discipline and endurance he's just got a lot going for him," Sanderson said.

So far this season, Suriano has two marquee dual meet wins against Stanford's Connor Schram and Lehigh's Darian Cruz, both top 10 ranked opponents at the time, helping him to a No. 4 ranking at 125 pounds. Although both wins were decisions, 3-0 over Schram and 7-0 over Cruz, Suriano dominated his opponents, controlling the match.

"I want the best of the best," Suriano said. "I'm chasing my goals and I need to beat the best to be the best. I know I have to climb up the ranks and prove to people. I know in my heart where I belong and I just need to go out and prove it." 

When you're a part of one of the best programs in the country there are plenty of mentors and experienced veterans around the program willing to help, and Suriano has been able to take advantage of the opportunity.

"I have a ton of mentors here," Suriano said. "Obviously, Coach Cael, who I think is the greatest wrestler ever, and Zain Retherford, who I really look up to, and all the guys on the team - Bo [Nickal], Jason Nolf, Nico, I look up to a lot of those guys. Zain is a guy who I can relate to how we wrestle - strong, firm and forward. I try to pick his brain whenever I can."

For Suriano and Retherford, sometimes those moments together aren't always spent talking about wrestling.

"We're always talking," Suriano said. "We're usually talking about food and some different stuff, not just wrestling. We have our own little kicks and like I said, whenever I can pick Zain's head and learn from him that's when I'm only going to get better. As you can see what he's doing out there, dominating guys, and putting people away, that's what I'm going to be doing and that's what we train for."

Suriano, who has plenty of more time in a Nittany Lion singlet, also has a few other career goals in mind.

"I like watching MMA and I love UFC and following that," Suriano said. "One of my ultimate goals is to be a UFC champ, that's something you might not know. After my wrestling career, I can chase all that stuff."  

Suriano and the rest of the third-ranked Nittany Lions return to action against Binghamton at 2 p.m. Sunday in Rec Hall. 

"I train hard, this is my main focus of the day - to train and just be a machine. I go after guys better than me, bigger than me, older than me, I don't care who they are it's just trying to get better."

Catch up with Coach Sanderson as he looks ahead to Penn State's upcoming outing in Rec Hall.     

BLOG: Consistency Helps Penn State Past Lehigh

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling continued its dominance at Sunday's Bryce Jordan Center Dual, defeating ninth-ranked Lehigh in front of more than 15,000 fans.

"I think overall we wrestled pretty good," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I think that's a good team, a top 10 dual team for sure. I think they're going to beat some good teams this year, tough all the way up and down their lineup for the most part." 

Although true freshman Nick Suriano opened the afternoon with an impressive victory against sixth-ranked Lehigh junior Darian Cruz, the Nittany Lions were trailing 7-3 after a pair of losses at 133 and 141 for Nittany Lions Jered Cortez and Jimmy Guliabon.

Suriano, who has been a spark for the Nittany Lions all season, handed Cruz, an All-American, his first loss of the season.

"That was big," Sanderson said. "When you have a leadoff man who is consistent and their effort is consistent and their mindset is consistent, I think that's a huge blessing to the program. So, we're very happy, blessed and grateful to have Nick as our leadoff man."

When first asked about his first collegiate outing in the packed venue, Suriano made no mention of his dominant performance, focusing rather on the opportunity.

"This arena is unbelievable," Suriano said. "We were just talking about it before, Rec Hall is a little more personal, fans are a little louder and a little more uptight, but this is the kind of atmosphere I train for and this is what Penn State offers and it's awesome. Beating a ranked guy, it doesn't matter it's just getting out to wrestle for me, is wonderful in this environment."

Penn State's top-ranked Zain Retherford shifted the momentum for the Nittany Lions, pinning ninth-ranked Laike Gardner to remain unbeaten on the season.

At 184, third-ranked Bo Nickal registered his seventh consecutive pin of the season, downing Kyle Gentile at the 2:35 marker. 

For Nickal, he simply credited his success this season to a focused approach on one match at at time.

"I'm just having fun," Nickal said, "I love wrestling, so every time I get to go out there I'm just competing with gratitude."

Along with Retherford and Nickal, Penn State cruised to the 30-10 final score with Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nick Nevills (285) all clinching wins.

At 3-0 on the season, Penn State returns to action Sunday, Dec. 11, hosting Binghamton at 2 p.m. in Rec Hall.

This Week in Penn State Wrestling - 12/1/2016

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Nickal Building on Success in 2016
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State sophomore Bo Nickal. Last season wrestling at 174 pounds, Nickal finished with an impressive 33-2 record as an All-American runner-up for the NCAA title. Through two dual meets and a tournament this season at 184 pounds, Nickal isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

"Nothing has really changed," Nickal said regarding the weight class change. "Just the same thing, sticking to the plan, staying consistent. I worked on moving forward, pressure and stuff like that so I'm wrestling the same and just having fun. Doing what I do." 

On The Mat
After eight pins last season, Nickal is already closing in on that number with six pins through six bouts this season.

Not only is Nickal in competition with wrestlers from around the country at other schools, but also with some of his own teammates. 

"[Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford, and Jason Nolf] want to see each other get pins and help the team succeed, but obviously, there's fun in competing for those types of stats," Sanderson said. "We want to see all of our guys compete like that, but in a friendly way." 

While pinning opponents has become routine, it certainly isn't always an expectation. 

"Well I hate to say you expect [a pin]," Sanderson said. "But those guys have been there in those positions and those situations and are obviously very good and they have experience under their belts. So you kind of know what you have going out there and Bo is a guy that pins so I don't want to say we expected it, it's still exciting and it's a challenge for him." 

With the lone Bryce Jordan Center dual meet of the season upcoming against Lehigh, Nickal is excited for another shot to wrestle on the BJC stage.

"The BJC is awesome," Nickal said. "It's unlike any environment that I've ever wrestled in. It's incredible and I'm just super excited to get back and wrestle in front of a sellout crowd. It's going to be a lot of fun for sure."

Off The Mat
With many Penn State student athletes participating in Giving Tuesday, Nickal and the wrestling team are no different, and they try to give back to the surrounding community throughout the year.  

"We like to do a lot with our community and stay involved," Nickal said. "They give us so much support so it only makes sense to just give a little back to them through the youth program, working with the kids and stuff like that and volunteering. I know a lot of our guys are involved in SAAB and do a lot of volunteering through that so we try to stay active."

While many might expect one of the nation's top wrestlers to constantly be in the gym, he finds some time away for hobbies. One of which he shares with some teammates as well.

"I play a lot of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale and stuff like that," Nickal said with a grin. "So I'm into video games a little bit." 

Nickal looks to build on his strong start Sunday at noon when the Nittany Lions host Lehigh in the Bryce Jordan Center. Nickal will have a probable matchup against freshman Kyle Gentile who is 1-2 this season. 

Check out more updates from Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson below.

This Week in Penn State Wrestling - 11/16/16

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off a dominant home opening win against Stanford last week, Penn State wrestling is set to head to Penn for the Keystone Classic Sunday, Nov. 20 at the historic Palestra. 

The Nittany Lions will not only send their starting lineup to compete, but will also add an addition nine more wrestlers in the event. This week, we caught up with Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and Nittany Lion Zain Retherford for an update. 

Check out updates from each Q&A session below.

Cael Sanderson Zain Retherford

BLOG: Nittany Lions Shine in Opener

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A standing ovation was how the No. 4 Nittany Lions (2-0) were welcomed into Rec Hall for their first home dual meet of the season after beating Army on Friday 45-0. Moments before the match began, the Nittany Lions hoisted the 2015-16 NCAA national championship and Big Ten championship banners into the rafters.

The meet was highlighted by four pins for the Nittany Lions, who beat No. 12 Stanford (1-1) handily 36-6.  

"Anytime we're wrestling we want guys looking for bonus points," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We have some guys that are great at pinning, but Stanford has a good team and they're solid all the way up and down their lineup."

After Vincenzo Joseph lost 18-12 to start the meet at 165 pounds, Geno Morelli knotted the score at three with a decision victory of his own, 6-3 over No. 13 Jim Wilson.

"That was the first time I've ever wrestled besides later in the match," Morelli said. "I kind of liked it. You don't think about it as much and I felt more relaxed today and anytime you can get the momentum rolling it's good. I feel good about where I'm headed. It's a process and I think being relaxed tonight helped me a little bit more."

Next, Bo Nickal took to the mat, wrestling Austin Flores at 184 pounds. Nickal dominated, recording nine takedowns and four near-fall points, capping it off with a pin 6:21 into the bout.

"Well I hate to say you expect [a pin]," Sanderson said. "But those guys have been there in those positions and those situations and are obviously very good and they have experience under their belts. So you kind of know what you have going out there and Bo is a guy that pins so I don't want to say we expected it, it's still exciting and it's a challenge for him."

At the intermission, Penn State held a 15-3 lead after Matt McCutcheon and Nick Nevills won by decision 3-2 and 3-1.

Nick Suriano led things off after the break at 125 pounds wrestling All-American Connor Schram. After a quiet first period, Suriano escaped to begin the second and the second stall called on Schram gave Suriano a 2-0 lead. In the third, Suriano rode out Schram to accumulate 1:56 of riding time to secure a 3-0 decision victory over a quality opponent.

 "I was just riding and sticking it to him and putting pressure on him," Suriano said. "I felt him tiring. He was a strong, big opponent, but I felt him weaken in the third and I was just going to keep him down there and wasn't going to let him out."

Suriano was excited for his first match in Rec Hall.

"It was an awesome experience," Suriano said. "The crowd was unbelievable like I expected. It was a tough opponent my first time here but it was awesome. To represent Penn State here is unbelievable, it's what I've dreamed of."

Next at 133 pounds, Jered Cortez continued his winning ways with a pin just 2:40 into the first period in his first official collegiate debut, having missed last year due to transfer eligibility rules. Cortez dominated with two takedowns and six near-fall points.

Penn State's Zain Retherford at 149 pounds and Jason Nolf at 157 pounds closed out the dual meet with two pins of their own as well. Retherford pinned Stanford junior Tommy Pawelski 2:16 into the first period. Nolf battled and was tied with Paul Fox at five after the first period, but Nolf then exploded totaling 10 takedowns before his second pin in as many matches with 44 seconds left in the third period.

"When our guys are wrestling for the team more than themselves they're going to wrestle better," Sanderson said. "That's something that we've been blessed with for the last couple of years and we need to keep that going."

The Nittany Lions are back in action at 9 a.m. Sunday Nov. 20 on the road at the Keystone Classic at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We have a lot to build off of," Sanderson said. "And it's a lot more fun and easier to build off of success than not."

Penn State Wrestling Season Preview - Cael Sanderson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another season of Penn State wrestling has nearly arrived, as the Nittany Lions are set for a split dual meet weekend to kick off the 2016-17 season. Big Ten and NCAA national champions in five of the last six seasons, the Nittany Lions travel to Army West Point Friday, Nov. 11 before returning home to Rec Hall to host Stanford Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. 

With a mix of youth and veteran experience, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson's team includes 10 Nittany Lions ranked within InterMat's preseason top 20, as well a possible eight underclassmen who could compete in the starting lineup this year. 

Ahead of the trip to Army West Point, Sanderson sat down with GoPSUsports.com for a one-on-one session to talk 2016-17 and the excitement for the upcoming season. 


Wrestling Media Day Recap

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With wrestling season less than two weeks away, head coach Cael Sanderson spoke with the media for the first time leading up to the start of the 2016-17 campaign. The defending national champion Nittany Lions are looking for their sixth national title in the last seven years.

The summer brought no time off for the Penn State coaching staff, as this particular summer was magnified with the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Sanderson thinks the Olympic Games can assist his coaching staff and his team.

 "It's good for us as coaches to be around the best coaches and the best wrestling in the world," Sanderson said. "Although it's one of the oldest sports, it continues to evolve; technique, tactic, strategy."

Two members of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club competed in the Olympic Games and provide an advantage for Penn State's collegiate wrestlers.

"Having guys like Frank Molinaro and Franklin Gomez training in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club is very valuable," Sanderson said. "Our college kids are walking around and training side by side with Olympians, world medalists, Olympic champions. I think that gives you a lot of confidence." 

At 125 pounds the Nittany Lions lost four-time All-American and last season's NCAA champion, Nico Megaludis, who graduated. Filling in will be Nick Suriano, a true freshman from Paramus, New Jersey. Suriano won four New Jersey state championships and posted a 159-0 record. 

"I've been here all summer so I had a little jump," Suriano said. "That was great for me. I was training, lifting, going with the club guys, so it was great, I'm a lot better. It's going to be great, I can't wait to show what I can do to my fans at Penn State and to my personal fans at home. It's going to be awesome." 

At 133 pounds Jered Cortez, a University of Illinois transfer, will represent Penn State. Cortez redshirted during his 2014-15 campaign with the Fighting Illini and was not allowed to compete last year as a collegian because he transferred within the Big Ten conference. Last season Cortez went 12-0 in open tournaments, with one pin and three tech falls. 

As of right now at 141 pounds senior Jimmy Gulibon will get the first try at the spot. Gulibon earned All-America honors two years ago wrestling at 133 pounds. Last season wrestling at 141, Gulibon went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. 

"I would say Gulibon has the advantage there but there are certainly a few different guys challenging him for that spot," Sanderson said. "That's healthy for our program and it will work itself out."

There are no surprises when it comes to the Nittany Lion starter at 149 pounds. Zain Retherford, a redshirt junior and one of the top wrestlers in the country will look to add another national championship after an undefeated season last year. Retherford was also the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler and the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year after recording 15 falls, eight tech falls and seven majors. 

But for Retherford, it isn't about his past accomplishments.

"This is a new year and a new opportunity for me to reach my goals," Retherford said. "That's what I plan to do this year."

The Nittany Lions don't have any questions at 157 pounds either with All-American Jason Nolf in the lineup. Nolf finished last season second at the national championships with a 33-2 overall record. The only two losses were to Isaiah Martinez, an eventual national champion, but Nolf did pin Martinez in their first meeting during a dual meet. 

Penn State could also see another new face in the lineup for Penn State at 165 pounds with Vincenzo Joseph possibly getting the starting nod. The redshirt freshman from Pittsburgh went 11-0 in open tournaments during his redshirt season last year with three pins, five tech falls and a major. Joseph won two-straight Pennsylvania state titles during his last two years in high school. 

"He's another freshman and a guy we have confidence in," Sanderson said. "He had a very good year last year and we know he was a big time recruit for us."

There are still question marks at 174 pounds with Bo Nickal on the move. Senior Geno Morelli, who went 2-2 at his first NCAA tournament at 165 pounds last year will be competing with Shakur Rasheed for the spot.   

"He really did some amazing things but was just in the wrong weight class last year at 165," Sanderson said of Rasheed. "We still don't know what he's capable of. He's very competitive, and talented, works very hard."

After an impressive freshman campaign Bo Nickal has made the jump to 184 pounds and will compete with Matt McCutcheon for the spot. McCutcheon, a red-shirt junior, is a two-time NCAA qualifier, while Nickal was the runner-up at 174 pounds in his redshirt freshman season with the Nittany Lions. Nickal went 33-2 last season and accumulated eight falls, seven tech falls, and eight majors.

The Nittany Lions lost Morgan McIntosh, last year's NCAA champion at 197 pounds, to graduation and will look to redshirt freshman Kellen Stout to fill the void. Stout went 11-3 wrestling in open tournaments last year mostly at 184. Anthony Cassar is also battling Stout for the position, but is still recovering from an injury and is still weeks away, according to Sanderson. 

Rounding out the Nittany Lions' lineup is heavyweight Nick Nevills who has high expectations after setback with injuries. Nevills was in Penn State's lineup toward the end of the season last year and posted a 6-3 record and did not qualify for the NCAA tournament. 

The Nittany Lions also added Jake Varner to the coaching staff this offseason. Varner, a 2010 Iowa State graduate, will join Sanderson's staff along with assistants Casey Cunningham and Cody Sanderson. 

Penn State beings their season at Army, Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. The Nittany Lions debut at home is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, against Stanford. 

Penn State Hosts 2016-17 Kickoff Event

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in the 2016-17 season, the Penn State wrestling team put on a show for fans in Rec Hall.

From seven-year-olds donning their own Penn State singlets, to long-time Nittany Lion fans, many came out to show support for the team that has five national championships in the last six years, hoping to add another title this year.

"I mean it's pretty awesome just to see this many fans come out here for a kickoff event," Bo Nickal, last year's NCAA runner-up at 174 pounds, said. "It just makes me even more excited to wrestle this year and get back out on the mat." 

The team activities began with each wrestler being introduced by class, beginning with the freshman group, as smoke filled the north end of Rec Hall for a dramatic entrance. Following the team were the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club resident athletes, which included Olympians Frank Molinaro and Franklin Gomez, as well as two-time NCAA Champion David Taylor.

As the wrestlers warmed up on the mat, the Nittany Lion head assistant coach Casey Cunningham, explained some of the techniques that the wrestlers were using and discussed how he and the coaching staff are constantly looking to expand their knowledge on the sport, techniques and nutrition.

While the wrestlers sparred, Olympians Molinaro, who narrowly missed a bronze medal, and Gomez, who just came up short as well, both spoke to the crowd. Both talked about their experiences at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and being around the Penn State program.

And for many Penn State wrestling fans, the success of Penn State wrestling is fun to watch.

"We've been here at Rec Hall since 1970 and we've been following Penn State wrestling since it has been here in Rec Hall," Connie Christiansen said along with her husband Monty. "The activity that goes on with Penn State wrestling is some that one likes to follow. It's very clean, it's very neat and it's very very active for every fan, they don't even need to know about wrestling." 

With the season quickly approaching, Bo Nickal and his teammates are focusing on having another successful season.

"I'm just trying to do my best every match," Nickal said. "Just keep wrestling hard and having fun so, I mean, I do this because I love it and because I enjoy it and I'm just going to try and do that every match."

The season is just around the corner with the Nittany Lions starting on the road at Army, Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. The first home meet is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13 when Penn State hosts Stanford.

VIDEO: Frank Molinaro Headed to Rio 2016 Olympics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling national champion and current assistant coach Frank Molinaro is set to represent the United States at the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.

Molinaro qualified for the Olympics in dramatic fashion after the United States solidified a berth at the 65 kg weight class following a doping violation involving participants in a qualifying tournament. Molinaro learned of the news while on the golf course in Happy Valley.

The 2012 NCAA champ at 149 pounds will spend the summer training and competing before traveling to Rio in early August. Molinaro and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson talked with the media on Monday about Molinaro's spot in the Olympics.







Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 NCAA Championships Session VI - Lions Crown Two Champions

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NCAA Championships - Nittany Lions Clinch 2016 National Title | VIDEO: Cael Sanderson

NCAA Championships Session I Roundup | NCAA Championships Session II Roundup
NCAA Championships Session III Roundup | NCAA Championships Session IV Roundup

NEW YORK - Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford put an exclamation point on Penn State's fifth team national championship in six season by earning their first individual national titles on Saturday night in sold out Madison Square Garden.

Having already clinched the 2016 NCAA title during the morning session, the Nittany Lions entered the evening with five individuals seeking their first championship in a Blue & White singlet. Megaludis and Retherford wrestled outstanding matches on the sport's biggest stage en route to a spot atop the podium inside The Garden.

11803023.jpegMegaludis has been a rock solid competitor for the Nittany Lions since he stepped on to campus five years ago. No stranger to the stage at the national tournament, Megaludis ran out of his corner to the national title tilt for the third time in his career.

The Nittany Lion fifth-year senior jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown against Iowa's Thomas Gilman. The Murrysville native added a second takedown in the second and never looked back en route to a 6-2 triumph over Gilman.

The four-time All-American had a look in his eye that he was not going to be denied the opportunity to have his arm raised as a national champion in his final attempt at the ultimate prize.

When the clock ticked to zero, Megaludis erupted with jubilation. He immediately raised his arms to salute the boisterous Penn State faithful in the corner of Madison Square Garden. Megaludis then raced to the corner of the mat to embrace head coach Cael Sanderson and associate head coach Cody Sanderson before returning to the center to have his arm raised as a national champion for the Nittany Lions.

"I'm the champion. I don't know, man, nothing else to it. I'm the champion. It's a pretty good feeling," said Megaludis.

Megaludis has rarely shown any type of emotion after the 119 victories during his career, but this night was special. It has been five years of hard work and effort to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and Megaludis was grateful for the opportunity he earned on Saturday night.

"I'm just relieved. I knew I was going to be the champion," said Megaludis. "It was a done deal a year ago when I signed everywhere - my room, Penn State, my room at home, my bathroom at home, my wrestling room at home, my car steering wheel: I am 2016 national champion. I come into my car every day on my steering wheel and I see that and I brainwashed myself. And I don't know, I brainwashed myself and I got it done."

"He's a guy that we wanted to win in the worst possible way. And it was emotional," said Sanderson. "It was awesome. We're happy for him, a kid that works extremely hard. He's very disciplined and very consistent. Always gives his best effort. Very rare."
 
11803069.jpegRetherford's run through the bracket at 149 pounds was nothing short of remarkable during the three-day tournament. After rolling to a 21-6 technical fall in the first round, Retherford pinned his next three opponents on his way to the final match against Brandon Sorenson from Iowa.

The Nittany Lion sophomore made it five-straight matches with bonus points in the final with a dominant 10-1 victory over Sorenson. Retherford tallied two takedowns in the first period, an escape and a takedown in the second, a takedown in the third and clinched the riding time point for a major decision victory.

No stage is too big for the Benton, Pa., native because each time he steps onto the mat, he does it with great enjoyment. Retherford is fierce with the pace he wrestles at, and his motor genuinely never stops. The amount of pressure he puts on opponents is relentless. But what separates him from most wrestlers is his attitude.

"I've been dreaming of this moment since I started going to camps when I was really little," said Retherford. "I looked at posters on the wall of guys who had won national titles wanting to be one of those guys. Today, it feels great to say that I have achieved it."

"He's only a sophomore. But the pressure he puts on his opponents and his ability to score points," said Sanderson. "We're glad he's only a sophomore. We wish he was a freshman. Or just coming into school, I guess. But great leader for us. We hope everyone can follow his lead. He made a huge jump from his freshman year."

Wrestling is a unique sport with the peaks and valleys of the national tournament. As a team, Coach Sanderson and the Nittany Lions reached the highest of highs after winning the team title earlier in the day. Megaludis and Retherford then claimed individual crowns, but the final three Lions on the mat came up just short of earning victories in their title bouts.

Jason Nolf and Illinois standout Isaiah Martinez put on a show at the 157-pound final, with Martinez scoring a late takedown to claim a 6-5 win. Bo Nickal then rallied from 9-4 down at the end of the second period and fell short by a count of 11-9 against Ohio State's Myles Martin in the 174-pound title match. Senior Morgan McIntosh's stellar career fell just shy, as well, in a narrow 4-2 decision to Missouri's J'Den Cox. The four-time All-American finished with a 114-19 career mark.

Coach Sanderson was thrilled with the collective team's efforts and the individual honors Megaludis and Retherford achieved, but he will enter the offseason hungry to watch the team improve and learn from its experiences in New York.

"Coaching wrestling is tough. Because it's a team game. We want to win as a team, obviously," said Sanderson. "But we have 10 individuals and as a coach my job is to help those individual. If the individuals do well, the team does well. So it's certainly bittersweet. It's tough, it's painful. It hurts when guys don't reach their goals. And in the long run those young guys, it will make them a bit hungrier, they'll have a little more urgency to improve. They'll come back here with fire."

Penn State finished the national tournament with 23.0 bonus points, six All-Americans, a sixth place finish, three second-place finishes and two national champions. Penn State now has 25 national champions (32 titles) in the program's rich history.

The recipe for success at the NCAA Wrestling Championships is consistency, and the Nittany Lions were stout for three days en route to a 25.5-point margin over the second-place team in the standings.

"I think, when you win the national championships, you've got to be pretty happy and pumped," said Sanderson. "Obviously a great team effort -- five guys in the finals, six All-Americans. We're happy. But we leave here ready to improve and build and get some freshmen to the next level. And we're happy we won but we're excited about the future also."

The Nittany Lions' reign over the wrestling world returned in Madison Square Garden. Penn State Wrestling is now a five-time national champion.

11803042.jpeg
Final Team Standings
1. Penn State - 123.0
2. Oklahoma State - 97.5
3. Ohio State - 86.0
4. Virginia Tech - 82.0
5. Iowa - 81.0


Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (32-3) - 5-0 - NATIONAL CHAMPION


149: #1 Zain Retherford (34-0) - 5-0 - NATIONAL CHAMPION


157: #3 Jason Nolf (33-2) - 4-1 - Second Place

174: #1 Bo Nickal (33-2) - 4-1 - Second Place

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (32-1) - 4-1 - Second Place



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


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